Navigating as a Functional Illiterate

Signs Matter when Travelers Can’t Read or Speak a Language

 

A subway entrance in Moscow Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

A subway entrance in Moscow
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Finding my way around Moscow when I don’t speak Russian and can’t read the Cyrillic alphabet becomes a bit of a fun challenge. Navigating the subway system, I am careful to count how many stops until I get off since I won’t be able to understand the announcements on the train. Staying close to windows and doors so I can try to ascertain a current stop becomes more important to me. Even if someone were to ask me, in English, which stop at which I want to disembark, I won’t be able to say. I can’t pronounce it. I can point on a map.

Navigating a subway system becomes more challenging if you can't read or speak the language of the signs. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Navigating a subway system becomes more challenging if you can’t read or speak the language of the signs.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

I focus on counting and looking at the first few letters on my map and matching them to the station names appearing on the subway’s walls. It’s scary, frustrating, and educational: Things I don’t think for a minute about on subways in New York or Washington I now focus on seriously here. If I get lost on this subway system, my experience could be scary. I appreciate how challenging existences are for immigrants in the United States who are just learning their way around and just beginning to learn English.

Riding the subway in a place where you can't read the language or even pronounce the name of the station to which you are going requires an extra dose of concentration. I try matching the first few letters on the map to the sign on the station wall. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Riding the subway in a place where you can’t read the language or even pronounce the name of the station to which you are going requires an extra dose of concentration. I try matching the first few letters on the map to the sign on the station wall.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

The Moscow subways are beautiful. This is a place where the worker is glorified, appreciated. Beautiful mosaics and other art appears in these stations; they are worth the anxiety associated with getting on these trains.

A ride on the Moscow subway is worth the navigational effort; mosaics celebrating workers appear in certain stations. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

A ride on the Moscow subway is worth the navigational effort; mosaics celebrating workers appear in certain stations.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

I am fortunate; I find my way; even when I appear to be floundering, plenty of helpful Russians approach me and ask, in English, if they can be of assistance.

The Moscow subway can be intimidating, but navigating it is rewarding. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

The Moscow subway can be intimidating, but navigating it is rewarding.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Yes, the signs and the navigation are intimidating; given the opportunity, I will do this again.

—Lori Tripoli

~Advertisement~

Urban Remedy LLC
50% Off a 28 day supply of Urban Remedy’s New Herbal Slimming Tea with promo code: SLIMMINGTEA

 Urban Remedy LLC
~Advertisement~

Thinking about traveling to Russia? Consider these posts:

Art in the Moscow subway  Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Art in the Moscow subway
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *